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Top Five Shortstops Under 25

Top Five Shortstops Under 25: The next wave of superstar shortstops has arrived in MLB. Look for these guys to dominate in the coming seasons.

By Paul Harvey – Last Word On Baseball

Shortstop has long been regarded as one of the most important defensive positions on a baseball team. Teams would often overlook subpar offensive performances from their shortstops. All that really mattered was getting outs and not committing errors. Ozzie Smith, Joe Tinkers, and Luis Aparicio all had Hall of Fame careers thanks to strong defensive efforts. It is true, however, that things have changed.

Top Five Shortstops Under 25

The emergence of players like Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken Jr., and Alex Rodriguez led teams to re-evaluate the position. No longer is it enough for a shortstop to play Gold Glove defense. Yes, a shortstop must still possess a slick-fielding glove, but teams now covet a middle-of-the-order bat from their shortstops. This trend has been evident for a while, and a new wave of young, high-impact shortstops is beginning to excel. Here is a list of the top five shortstops under 25 in Major League Baseball. The top four spots were determined via a Twitter poll.

  1. Addison Russell

Career stats: .240/.314/.404/.718, 34 HR, 149 RBI, 240 hits, 127 runs, 293 games, one All-Star appearance, 7.6 WAR.

Best Season (2016): .238/.321/.417/.738, 21 HR, 95 RBI, 125 hits, 67 runs, 219 total bases, 151 games, 4.3 WAR.

Russell may very well have the highest ceiling of any shortstop on this list. He has already completed two full seasons in the majors despite being just 22 years old. His best season was 2016 when he hit 21 home runs, tied for the third-most among National League shortstops. Russell led all NL shortstops with 95 RBI and finished third with 55 walks. He is also no slouch with a glove finishing with 19 defensive runs saved (DRS), tied for tops in all of MLB.

The main drawback for Russell at this point is a low batting average and on-base percentage. That being said, there is not a team in baseball that would not love to have a top defender at shortstop with the ability to hit 20+ home runs a season. And at Russell’s age, there is no telling how far his career can take him.

  1. Carlos Correa

Career stats: .276/.354/.475/.829, 42 HR, 164 RBI, 266 hits, 128 runs, 252 games, 2015 AL Rookie of the Year, 10.1 WAR.

Best season (2016): .274/.361/.451/.811, 20 HR, 96 RBI, 158 hits, 76 runs, 260 total bases, 153 games, 5.9 WAR.

Correa’s career has been filled with high expectations from the jump. He was selected first overall in the 2012 Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros at just 17 years old. Correa demonstrated he could hit for power at nearly every minor league spot before appearing in 99 games as a rookie in 2015. His 22 home runs, 45 extra-base hits, and 68 RBI were enough to capture the American League Rooke of the Year award, narrowly beating out another shortstop on this list (more on that later).

Correa has just one complete season under his belt, but he is the youngest player on this list after turning 22 in September. He still has already posted consecutive seasons of 20+ home runs, 20+ doubles, and a career OPS+ of 128. Correa still has some growing to do, but it is not an exaggeration to expect him to compete for an MVP award in the very near future.

  1. Xander Bogaerts

Career Stats: .286/.337/.411/.749, 41 HR, 221 RBI, 528 hits, 266 runs, 475 games, one All-Star appearance, two Silver Slugger awards, 8.9 WAR.

Best season (2016): .294/.356/.446/.802, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 192 hits, 115 runs, 291 total bases, 157 games, 3.7 WAR.

Bogaerts benefits from having the one thing no other player on this list has: a larger sample size. He has already completed three full seasons before his age-24 season. Bogaerts appeared in 18 games at the age of 20 before his full rookie season at 21. He struggled early on and throughout his rookie campaign with a triple-slash of .241/.299/.363 over his first 162 games. The best takeaway from his rookie season was the 12 home runs. The Boston Red Sox, however, saw enough in him to give him another shot.

Bogaerts took a huge leap in his second full season by posting a .320 batting average and driving in 81 runs to capture the first of his two Silver Slugger awards. He continued his an emergence with an even better 2016. Bogaerts set a career-high with 21 home runs and finishing third in the AL with 89 RBI. His 192 hits and 115 runs led the AL while also finishing in the top three in doubles, walks, and OPS. Bogaerts has turned himself into an offensive force the Red Sox can trust moving forward.

  1. Francisco Lindor

Career Stats: .306/.356/.454/.810, 27 HR, 129 RBI, 304 hits, 149 runs, 257 games, one All-Star appearance, one Gold Glove, 10.3 WAR.

Best Season (2016): .301/.358/.435/.794, 15 HR, 78 RBI, 182 hits, 99 runs, 263 total bases, 158 games, 5.7 WAR.

Lindor may just be the most balanced shortstop on this list. He appeared in 99 games his rookie season and hit .313 with 13 home runs and an .835 OPS. Lindor nearly captured the AL ROTY for 2015, losing a close vote to Correa. All Lindor did to follow up his rookie season was hit .301 while batting third for the AL pennant winning Cleveland Indians. He rounded out his season with 15 home runs, 78 RBI, 19 steals, and 99 runs. His 17 DRS was also fourth in all of baseball making him and Russell the only players on this list to finish in the top 10. Lindor is also one of two players on this list to finish in the top-10 in MVP voting thus far.

The lone criticism anyone might have of Lindor is a limited power game so far. His home run total has been acceptable, but he is coming off a season in which he posted an OPS+ of 104. However, this should not be an area of concern moving forward. Jose Altuve did not post an OPS+ above 101 until his third full year in the league. Most good hitters naturally develop more power over time, and Lindor only stands to get better in the years to come.

  1. Corey Seager

Career Stats: .312/.374/.519/.892, 30 HR, 89 RBI, 226 hits, 122 runs, 184 games, 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, one All-Star appearance, one Silver Slugger, one Top-three MVP finish, 7.9 WAR.

Best season (2016): .308/.365/.512/.877, 26 HR, 72 RBI, 193 hits, 105 runs, 321 total bases, 157 games, 6.1 WAR.

Seager posted a phenomenal rookie year in 2016 after appearing in 27 games during 2015. He appeared in 157 games, smashed 26 home runs, and slugged an impressive .512. His season was arguably the most impressive debut season of any shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. Seager led all NL shortstops in home runs, runs, slugging percentage, and OPS. He also finished top three in hits, doubles, batting average, and on-base percentage. He was named an all-star, won a Silver Slugger, and finished third in NL MVP voting. Seager is the only player on this list to boast a top five MVP finish to this point and is the only player on this list to post a WAR above six in a season.

The one knock against Seager would be his defense. Seager is definitely not on the same defensive level as Russell or Lindor, but he is not a liability either. He is simply an average defender to this point. It is also true that Seager has the smallest sample size of any player on this list. Could Seager’s rookie season be the high-water mark for his career? That risk is always present, but there is no denying the talent Seager demonstrated. He has been an offensive game-changer from the moment he first took the field, and Seager looks poised to contribute for years to come.

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